It is always, and I do mean ALWAYS fun to chat with Michael Sweet, legendary voice of STRYPER and solo artist. This was our third interview, conducted not long before he released his latest solo record One Sided War, one that we here at A&GS HQ are still playing constantly almost a month later. Along the way he also shed some light on a possible solo tour, and what’s next for SWEET & LYNCH. Check it:
Amps: You’ve got One Sided War coming out soon. Dare I ask what’s next after that?
Michael: Oh man, we never stop. I’ve got this record coming out, we’ll head into the studio to start the new STRYPER album, then I’ve got the new SWEET & LYNCH album either in March or April. We’re like a freight train comin’ down the tracks, man. STRYPER should come out around November of next year, and then SWEET & LYNCH will be the early part of ’18. I’ve also got this project I’m putting together with Joel Hoekstra (WHITESNAKE) and I’ll probably start recording another solo record at the very latest by early ’18, and schedule that for a late ’18 release.
Amps: Man alive, you never stop!
Michael: It’s just what I do. It’s like getting up and going to work everyday. People who go to a job don’t stop, and this is just what I do. It’s my life, it’s in my heart and my soul. As long as the songs keep coming and the well keeps giving I’m gonna keep recording and doing it.
Amps: Do you have any plans for touring, say with the guys on this record?
Michael: Yeah, I’d like to. We have the To Hell With the Devil 30th Anniversary Tour starting in late September and that goes all the way through November. I’ll take the holidays off, then STRYPER should start recording in February. but I plan to go out next year, aside from some STRYPER fly dates and one-offs. I wanna do some solo touring. And I’m talking to George lynch because I wanna go out and do some SWEET & LYNCH dates, too. We gotta make that happen, man. That’s just tragic if we don’t. George is into it, and I’d love to get Brian Tichy and James Lomenzo on board as well, so we can go out there and blow minds with a killer set. Brian is just a ridiculously-talented drummer who puts on a great show, James plays amazing, just a stupid-talented guy and George, we all know how he plays, right? It’s a killer band, and I’ll be the only one messing it up because I’m the singer (laughs).
Amps: The thing that struck me about One Sided War is as good as all the tracks are, this record is very backloaded, like you saved the best material for that last four-song barrage. Those tunes just smack you right in the mouth, every one of ’em!
Michael: (Laughs) well, here’s the thing. I always go into an album trying to not have any filler. I remember as a kid I’d go buy albums and sometimes I’d feel almost ripped off because there would be one or two good songs on them and the other seven or eight were garbage. Going back to those days I kind of made a subconscious commitment as an artist not to do that.
Another thing I’m not a fan of is when you put an album on and every song literally sounds the same, you know? That’s why I try to make sure every song sounds different. Those are goals of mine when I do an album, and I hope I accomplish that.
Amps: You do, believe me. Which leads me to ask how on Earth you came up with a song like “Radio”? Is that kind of a tongue-in-cheek dig at all this Bro-Country nonsense?
Michael: (Laughs) It is, but I don’t wanna be mean-spirited and have a nasty attitude. But it is kind of comical, man. Especially when you see all these rock guys throwing on cowboy hats and saying they’re country guys. Sometimes it works and there are legitimate reasons why. If someone grew up in country, or their roots lie there, or what have you, that’s fine. But usually it doesn’t work, and it’s as fake as anything. Reverse that and just imagine if country music became unpopular and rock and metal became as popular as country is now. Then all these country guys started trying to become metalheads. Everyone would be going, “WHAAAT? What is this??”
And here’s the thing…I’m not mocking country music. Some of the best writers and musicians are in Nashville. I co-wrote with two of them on this album. “One Sided War” is a co-write with Blair Daly and “Only You” is a co-write with Bruce Wallace, two incredibly talented writers from Nashville. That city has accepted me, I grew up in country music. My Dad wrote a #1 country song in 1976. I played on the sessions when I was a kid and I grew up watching Hee Haw. I LOVE the music, especially the classic stuff. But I look at some of these rock guys and I think, “C’mon, man. We’re not stupid.” If you’re gonna be an artist, you’ve gotta be real and not put a potato bag over the fans’ heads. Hey, I’ve written songs that were borderline country, I had one on my last album. And I love doing that, experimenting like that. But you’re NEVER gonna see Michael Sweet try to become a full-fledged country star.
Amps: You’ve got this knack for helping young talent. First it was Gabbie Rae, and now you bring us this powerhouse voice in Moriah Formica. Where did you find her and how?
Michael: Yeah, Moriah’s incredible. I did a show with her, she opened for me. As she was singing I kept coming out from backstage to watch her. Man, she blew my mind! And my wife suggested I work with her. It was a no-brainer, so I asked her to be a part of my album, she graciously agreed, and you said it right, she IS a powerhouse. And as good as she sounds on the album she sounds 100 times better live!
She sings HEART songs, PAT BENATAR songs, SKID ROW, HALESTORM, EVANESCENCE, she kills it all.
And she writes her own songs, she’s a brilliant writer, she plays guitar, and I mean LEAD guitar. She’s gonna be a rock star, for sure. You gotta just experience it live, you’ll see.
Amps: You’ve got Ethan Brosh, who’s an insane player, and Joel Hoekstra on guitar, who’s fantastic-
Michael: (Sarcastically), yeeeeah, he’s OK, I guess (starts laughing). No really, Joel is ridiculous. He’s one of my favorite players goin’ right now. He’s bringing back the phrase “Guitar God”, you know? And so is Ethan. He’s a Berklee grad, a local guy, and a cross between George Lynch and Steve Vai with a little Yngwie Malmsteen in there. He’s so amazingly great and gifted. I got ’em both on this album and I am so blessed to have ’em.
Amps: I daresay that as great as I’m Not Your Suicide is, One Sided War is even better.
Michael: I think so, too. I think this one has a little better continuity and flow to it. The last one was a little all over the map in terms of style of songs. This one just works. It’s definitely a guitar-oriented, edgy, energetic rock album. And it takes you right back, in a good way, to the 80’s. But it also has some modern flairs to it as well.
Amps: Again, you just never stop churning out great music, it’s unbelievable.
Michael: You can’t, man. Let me put it this way: if we recorded an album, and I listened to it and said to myself, “This is crap,” it would never get released because I’m not gonna just throw something out there. I’m gonna be the first to know if it’s garbage or not. I’m not gonna sit there and lie to myself and say it’s great when it’s not, like a lot of artists do. You gotta strive for perfection, make your mark, and take home the Gold. Hate to use all those corny cliches, but that’s the mentality we have when doing a STRYPER album, and I have it on my solo stuff.
Amps: I’m glad you mentioned SWEET & LYNCH touring. This is not a knock on Frontiers but they put together a lot of groups of guys in other bands that they have a full-time commitment to, so touring seems impossible.
Michael: I agree, man. And it’s sad because there are a lot great bands on Frontiers that don’t get to tour. You want to go see that and experience it live. I’m not patting myself on the shoulder here but I think SWEET & LYNCH is an exciting band that I think fans would wanna see. It takes you back to the glory days of rock, the 70’s and 80’s when guitar gods, singers, and songs ruled the airwaves.
Amps: What do you want to say to all the fans out there of Michael Sweet, STRYPER, SWEET & LYNCH, and any of the other 3,000 projects you got cookin’ at any given time?
Michael: Oh man, just thanks for being there always for 30-some odd years and allowing me to continue doing what I do and chasing after my dream. This is always gonna be a dream to me, always. And the fans are so supportive. When I go on Facebook Live or Periscope, all the people that show up, it amazes me. I’m totally humbled by ten people showing up and sometimes there’s a thousand. You go to the shows and 1,500-2,000 people show up. God has really blessed us every single day, and it really is humbling.
At this point I’m running out of ways to describe just how awesome it is to sit and talk with Michael Sweet. He always makes you feel like the most important person in the room, is genuinely appreciative of all his accolades, and he’s a true class act. One Sided War is a fantastic record, and it’s available now via Rat Pak Records, so pick it up ASAP!
LIVE IMAGES: ARDENT OWL MEDIA